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The Afterlife and Other Stories Hardcover – October 25, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679435832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679435839
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,417,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Updike himself edges into his 60s, so do the narrators and protagonists of most of these 22 beautifully crafted stories, all of them meticulously honest and gracefully ironic. "In the winter of their lives," most of these aging men have been married more than once-adultery is endemic in their social sphere (sophisticated communities up and down the Eastern seaboard). They have not achieved the happiness they expected, however, and they have reason to think back wistfully to the women they first married, when life seemed full of promise-especially since their second and third wives carry a "weight of anger" and resentment, augmented by feminism. These men are chillingly aware that even intimate connections prove superficial; the protagonist of "Grandparenting" perceives that "nobody belongs to us, except in memory." Sometimes insight is healing: in two stories concerning George, a beset older man married to Vivian, a contentious woman 20 years his junior, George achieves the serenity of acceptance: "his used old heart cracked open and peace entered." And in two of the most powerful tales, the title story and "Baby's First Steps," a minor accident gives a man a glimpse of his mortality, yet existence is henceforth tinged with sudden magic. The relationships between sons and mothers-elderly, dying, dead-fuel many of these tales, which are rendered with a brave candor. Inspired whimsy and a touch of the supernatural invest a standout story, "Farrell's Caddie," and "Cruise" is a modern-day Greek myth cloaked with wit. This volume marks the 42nd of Updike's books to be published by Knopf; one looks forward to the changing perspective (though not changing themes) that each decade brings to this masterful writer's work. BOMC and QPB club alternates.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In Olinger Stories (1964), Updike wrote knowingly about the pangs of adolescence. In Too Far To Go (1979), he focused with equal insight on the family and material crises typical of middle age. Now, after publishing more than 40 volumes of fiction, poetry, and essays, he concentrates on aging protagonists and the abundant evidence of mortality that surrounds them. In these mellow, reflective stories, where parents die and grandchildren are born, Updike's heroes are acutely aware of lost glory yet discover the strength to persevere. In "Short Easter," for example, the start of daylight-saving time cuts an hour off the holiday, and this odd truncation evokes for the central character larger personal losses. As usual, Updike's narration is masterful, but a few stories seem to be reworkings of the same basic plot.
--Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By NotATameLion on November 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Afterlife and Other Stories by John Updike exemplify the admirable qualities of John Updike as a writer. No matter what your perception of Updike's "take" on the world (and while we're on that subject-let us not confuse the character's feelings and views for those of the author), one is forced to admit that Mr. Updike is a very gifted writer.
There is a lot to admire and be entertained by in The Afterlife and Other Stories. Mr. Updike clearly demonstrates why he is known as one of the greatest prose stylists of the past century. These stories make the things one would typically view as mundane come to spectacularly sparkling life.
The locations of these stories have a personality of their own. Houses and landscapes interact with characters in a ways that, while difficult to describe, are very character-like in their own right. This gives the stories a sense of wonder that is palpably felt throughout the book.
Forces of nature-the blowing of a breeze, a rainstorm, the heat of the day, the light of the moon in the middle of the night-all echo the inner workings and turmoil of the character's souls. This gives the book an almost spiritual intensity...something lacking in much of today's two-dimensional "cookie cutter" writing.
The Afterlife and Other Stories is rich in imagery, meaning, and irony. There are a lot of interesting points and perspectives for the reader to ponder. One cannot read this book without having been challenged, entertained, and moved.
The tales told in The Afterlife and Other Stories taken individually are very entertaining. Taken as a whole, The Afterlife and Other Stories is something very special.
Updike is a powerful writer. I have enjoyed several of his novels. However, I appreciate his short stories deeply. The Afterlife and Other Stories is probably my favorite collection of Mr. Updike's stories. I recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
These stories are signature Updike. They are masterworks in description of the material things of the world, of settings , scenes, locales. They too are masterful in presenting and probing problematic human situations. Many of the stories focus on post- middle- age discontents and desires, with adultery usually being somewhere in the background. The protagonists have often been married more than once. To my mind the most powerful story in the work simply because it seems to touch the deepest layer of human feeling is ' A Sandstone Farmhouse'. This is a story it seems to me Updike has written many times. It is the story of going home again , the story of the late middle- aged man who in telling the story of visits to the home of his dying mother tells again the story of his own childhood. It is the weak father and the frustrated more energetic mother and the single child whose precociousness and sensitivity in observation are that of the future Updike himself. It is remarkable as many of these stories are in its exemplifying Updike 's magical metaphorical descriptive style. But it has a strength most of the other stories lack in that it seems to truly express Updike's deepest feeling. It is not simply a master artist's manipulation of fictional characters whose fate doesn't seem to be of truly vital interest to anyone. As a long- time reader of Updike I also find in it many wonderful passages in which he expresses 'life- wisdom' of his own.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M-I-K-E 2theD on January 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
A lengthy collection with wonderfully loquacious language and plots with lethargic unfolding, in Afterlife can be found a salt-of-the-earth kind of stories. Most of the stories revolve around middle-aged individuals, the experience of dealing with death, revisiting one's memories in its place of origin or just the seemingly simple act of falling in love. What makes the stories great is their humanistic nature but what kills the collection of that essential one extra star is the overused foci stated above. A few stories truly set themselves apart from the rest, but most are comfortably languid with their likeness.

And this being my first introduction to the literature of Updike, I'm happy to have found a writer who challenges perspective, timelessness and even the genre of fiction itself. My horizons have been broadened.

Afterlife - 4/5 - A somewhat near-death experience allows a man to enjoy some of the subtle things in life while on vacation in England. 17 pages

Wildlife - 4/5 - A man revisits a rural town and enjoys the rustic charms it still maintains, including his son. 9 pages

Brother Grasshopper - 5/5 A gangly teen is befriended by stronger coed through college and through life, during which time they share vacations and experience memories which will last for longer than intended. 15 pages

Conjunction - 5/5 - Revisiting a prior love of astronomy through life, a man finds an acquaintance amidst the conjunction of Venus and Mars, a synergy of passion and brevity. 8 pages

The Journey to the Dead - 4/5 - A dying women needs the assistance from an old college friend, his pain exacerbated by his loneliness, juxtaposed by her own terminal illness.
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Format: Hardcover
"Baby's First Step", "The Man Who Became A Soprano", and the title story all deserve five stars. The others, almost as good, lower the average just a bit. For me, these and most of the stories in his other collections are a pleasure to read. The writing, faceted, gem-like, unlike anyone else's, is at the heart of the enjoyment.
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